Renowned Indian directors like R Balki, Konkona Sen Sharma, Sujoy Ghosh, and Amit Ravindernath Sharma collaborated on this sequel to the Emmy-nominated "Lust Stories" (2018), delving into themes of sex, desire, and love through short films. While the anthology film has garnered a positive response, Neena Gupta's portrayal of a quirky grandmother in R. Balki's segment has surprised everyone.
In an interview with the writer, casting director Shruti Mahajan discussed the decision to cast Neena Gupta as a grandmother and also shed light on her other projects, including the highly anticipated film 'Heeramandi' by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. The movie features Aditi Rao Hydari, Sonakshi Sinha, Manisha Koirala, and Richa Chadha in crucial roles.
Excerpts from the interview:
Would you like to discuss the casting process for 'Lust Stories 2', especially with R Balki?
Having worked with Mr. Balki for a significant period, our collaboration has resulted in a strong working relationship and understanding. He is a director who appreciates unconventional choices and welcomes suggestions. Collaborating with him is a joy, as we had an engaging brainstorming session to create relatable characters representing urban India. Our aim was to keep the portrayals authentic and enjoyable, whether it was the female side of the family or the parents of the male character.
How did the idea of casting Neena Gupta for the grandmother role come about?
This question has been raised by many. Neena ji's stunning looks and youthful charm make it difficult to believe she could convincingly portray a grandmother. She seems to age in reverse like Benjamin Button. In the past, we have mostly seen Neena ji in simple, motherly roles on screen. During our casting discussions or sessions, Neena ji's name came up, and Mr. Balki was ecstatic about the idea of her playing a quirky and funny grandmother. Casting her for this role was unconventional and exciting. As we delved deeper into the concept, Mr. Balki became increasingly convinced that only Neena ji could deliver the humorous dialogues with the uber-coolness that the character required.
As a casting director, do you feel pressure to find the right actors who can convey the essence of the director's vision?
If you view your job as a source of pressure, then you are not truly enjoying it. The key is to have fun and find joy in what you do. I approach each project as a thrilling challenge because I love facing challenges. I personally invest myself in most of my work, striving to understand the director's vision and bringing out the best in each character. Until I receive the green light from the director, I persistently explore various options.
Let's discuss your upcoming projects, particularly 'Heeramandi.' It is highly anticipated, and some actors are taking on new roles. Can you share some insights?
Mr. Bhansali is known for his expertise in creating grand and extraordinary productions. 'Heeramandi' will undoubtedly set new benchmarks for OTT platforms. The recent unveiling of the cast indicates the grandeur that awaits. Mr. Bhansali aimed to transport us back in time, presenting us with timeless beauties who would perfectly fit his magnum opus. We hope that the audience will appreciate and enjoy his vision and grandeur, as much as I have enjoyed casting for this project.
How much say does the director have in finalizing the actors for a project?
Directors are the captains of the ship. My role is to assist and support their vision. It is a blessing to collaborate with talented directors. Ultimately, our shared goal is to create a good film that remains true to the script. I find immense satisfaction when my casting choices make my directors happy, and when the film is well-received by the audience. Every director has their own working style, and over time, a certain rapport and understanding are built. This rapport greatly aids in the casting process. Working with directors like Prakash Jha, Raj Mehta, Raj Kumar Gupta, or Alankrita Shrivastav is vastly different, as each has their unique approach. It is crucial to respect their individuality. Directors appreciate collaboration and value the experience of casting directors. Casting, I believe, is an amalgamation of directorial vision and casting expertise. It is a director's medium, but the casting director's input and experience are always welcome. Directors strive to do everything necessary to give their best and bring the film together. It is a balanced mix of both.